The Pain Train

My fellow contributors have been asking me to share a post about how I deal with the chronic pain caused by the spinal cord injury I suffered thirteen years ago.

The good news is there are many avenues for managing chronic pain that many of us suffer as a result of a spinal cord injury. I have not exhausted all options, therefore I cannot inform you of the best avenue. As with any health matters, you will need to discuss that with your healthcare provider. This is my personal experience.

Unlike normal pain, my pain never subsides or lessens as time passes. Many other SCI friends of mine, have shared that their chronic pain quite often is a huge factor in lessening their quality of life. Some people with spinal cord injuries, do not suffer from high levels of nerve pain, and I pray for you that you are one of the lucky ones. I am not! I experience nerve pain on a chronic basis and for the lack of better words, ‘It sucks!’

There is no magic pill for me. There are some options as far as medicine goes and like most medicines they all have their pros and cons. I take a combination that does a fair job of managing the “Pain Train” most of the time. It has changed and gone through dosage adjustments and different combinations more times than I can count. I have learned to seek counsel with my pain management doctor, sooner than later. It is also vital that I take the medicine as prescribed.

How would I describe my nerve pain? A combination of any of these words would describe what I experience: burning, tingling, shooting, sharp, stabbing or prickling.

There are pain pumps, electric spinal stimulators, and many other devices that I have yet tried. I made the decision that I would need to be really far down the ‘pain tracks’ before I went the invasive route. However, these options may work for many for neuropathic pain. As I age and things change, I continue my prescription medicine regimen, but I have found that my chronic pain is based on three factors for management; I must focus on mental, nutritional, and spiritual needs to best combat my pain. That is a bit of a departure for me. For me, this multimodal approach can keep my nerve pain symptoms under better control.

Massage, prayer, and meditation have helped improve my mental stamina in dealing with the pain. I have also used essential oils (this is a new endeavor, but I am open to all things natural that may help with my pain). I have also tried supplements and pool therapy, to keep the ‘night fires’ (or burning) at bay. A combination of these can calm down a pain flare up. Recently I noticed a decrease in my level of pain after adjusting my seat pad/cushion in my wheelchair. That planted a seed in my mind and I ordered a new mattress. I was so surprised that I felt so much better after a good night's rest!

I cannot overstate the next two things I have incorporated in my pain management: exercise and physical therapy. I have found that for me, the movement in physical therapy and the serotonin release, through exercise, provide natural pain remedies that directly affect the level of pain I experience. It just is common sense. Movement is good for me.

Preventive measures combat my pain the best! If I can stop a pain ‘flare up’ from getting started, it seems to be easier to prevent the ‘pain train’ from ever rolling on the tracks than it is to stop. I want to take measures to prevent the pain from ‘chugging along’ and getting to a place that seems unbearable.

In my experience, pain is exhausting. Pain can steal away quality of life and your energy. I hope that you can find solutions to alleviate pain.

Get out there, despite pain. Get your mind focused on something else. My music is my outlet and the one thing that can get me to push past the pain. The best piece of advice I always have, is “keep pushing on”.


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